SIC 4481 Deep Sea Transportation of Passengers


SIC 4481

This category includes establishments primarily engaged in operating vessels for the transportation of passengers on the deep seas.



Deep Sea Passenger Transportation


Coastal and Great Lakes Passenger Transportation


The passenger cruise industry, as we know it today, was formed around 1970 when approximately 500,000 people took overnight cruises. Since that time, the number of passengers has increased dramatically, reaching 10.5 million people in 2004. According to Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), this number was expected to reach over 11 million in 2005. In 2004 almost 85 percent of all cruise passengers (8.87 million) were U.S. citizens. In 2003, the industry had 184 ships with 215,405 berths. CLIA members added another 12 new or reintroduced ships in 2004, with plans for an additional six new ships during 2005 and a total of 20 new builds by 2008. According to International Council of Cruise Lines (ICCL), the total economic impact of the cruise industry reached over $23 billion annually during the mid-2000s.

By capacity, about 80 percent of all cruises leaving from North American ports traveled to the Caribbean and Bahamas in the mid-2000s. The Western Caribbean was the destination of nearly 33 percent of passengers; the Bahamas, 15 percent; Eastern Caribbean, 13 percent; and Southern Caribbean, 10 percent. Other leading destinations included Alaska, Mexico, Europe, Bermuda, and Hawai'i. In the mid-2000s, the top three most popular U.S. ports for embarkation were all in Florida: Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Port Canaveral. Other popular ports of departure included San Juan, New York, Vancouver, Galveston, Tampa, Los Angeles, and New Orleans. Florida-based ports accounted for about two-thirds of passengers embarking from North America. In the mid-2000s, CLIA reported that 80 percent of the total U.S. economic impact from the cruise industry was garnered by ten states: Florida, California, New York, Alaska, Texas, Washington, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania.

Since the mid-1980s, the cruise industry has conducted extensive market and consumer research. As a result, the industry has added new destinations, new ship design concepts, new on-board/on-shore activities, new themes, and new cruise lengths to reflect the changing vacation patterns of the public. By 2005 there were 30 points of embarkations from North America.

The cruise industry continues to have a very close working relationship with the travel agency community. More than 90 percent of all passengers were projected by the CLIA to have been booked through travel agents. Travel agencies found that cruises were profitable to sell and that many people who take a cruise want to repeat the experience.


Cruise lines generally offered either luxury, mass market (commonly called contemporary), or specialty cruises, although some analysts believed two more distinct categories have emerged: super-luxury cruises, catering to the very rich, and shorter budget-priced cruises, targeting middle-income vacationers.

Luxury cruise lines emphasize personal service aboard relatively small cruise ships. The contemporary category includes such highly advertised companies as Carnival Cruise Lines, Princess Cruise Lines, and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. These companies offer resort-style cruises aboard mammoth ships. The specialty cruise segment includes companies like Windstar Cruises, which offers adventure cruises to exotic ports of call aboard small ships that often carry as few as 100 passengers. Destinations include Africa, the Amazon, Antarctica, and seldom-visited islands in the Caribbean and South Pacific. Specialty companies also offer theme cruises with lecturers or celebrity hosts from the world of science, entertainment, or sports. For example, the Cunard Steamship Co. once offered murder mysteries aboard the famous Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2) and opera and classical music experiences in which amateurs were invited to study and play alongside professionals aboard the Sagafjord.


U.S. cruise industry vessels are primarily of Panamanian, Liberian, or Bahamian registry, which provides cruise line operators with significant tax breaks over U.S. registration. Foreign registration, known as "flags of convenience," also allows U.S. ships to hire foreign crews and escape strict U.S. safety inspections. The only U.S. flagged ships in the North American deep-water cruise industry are those operated by Clipper Cruise Lines.

Likewise, major cruise companies, although they operate from U.S. ports and their headquarters are in the United States, are often incorporated elsewhere to avoid U.S. taxes. For example, the corporate headquarters for Carnival Corporation, the largest North American cruise operator, are in Miami, but the company and its cruise subsidiaries are incorporated in Panama, The Netherlands Antilles, the British Virgin Islands, the Bahamas, and Liberia.

National Organizations

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), headquartered in New York, was formed in 1975 to promote the cruise industry and provide training to affiliated travel agencies. In 2005, 19 cruise lines belonged to CLIA, as did 16,500 affiliated travel agencies. Travel agents began actively suggesting cruises as a vacation alternative in the 1980s. Cruise-only travel agencies have since been formed, and large agencies have created cruise divisions. CLIA also sponsors National Cruise Vacation Month in February. The International Council of Cruise Lines, headquartered in Washington, D.C., lobbied on behalf of foreign-flag cruise ships operating out of U.S. ports.


Until the early 1800s, most ocean-going vessels sailed only when they had a full load of cargo and the weather was favorable. Passengers were secondary. However, in January of 1818, the Black Ball Line in New York began regularly scheduled service between the United States and England. The first ship, the James Monroe, left New York Harbor on time, despite a blizzard, and arrived in Liverpool three weeks later. The Black Ball Line proved so successful that other ships began regular service. "Packet ships," as they were known, were the first ships to concern themselves with the comfort of their passengers.

In the 1830s, steamships began to replace packet ships for carrying mail and passengers. The Pacific Mail Steamship Company, an American line founded in 1848, eventually came to dominate passenger service across the Pacific, but English companies dominated transatlantic service. One of these companies was the Cunard Steamship Co., Ltd., founded in 1840 by Samuel Cunard. Cunard was a Canadian who won the contract to deliver mail between England and Halifax, Nova Scotia. He and English partners formed the British and North American Royal Mail Steam Packet Co., which was renamed the Cunard Line in 1878. The first Cunard ship was the Britannia, which set sail from Liverpool on July 4, 1840. The ship carried a cow on board to provide passengers with fresh milk during the 14-day crossing. By 1880, the Cunard Line operated 19 ships that provided regular transatlantic passenger service.

Notable Firsts

In 1852, the City of Glasgow, owned by the British Inman Line, became the first ship to provide regular transatlantic passenger service without also having a contract to deliver mail. The Glasgow was also the first ship to be fitted with a spar deck covering part of the main deck. The spar deck provided passengers with a sunny recreation area in good weather and protection on the main deck during bad weather.

In 1879 another Inman ship, the City of Berlin, became the first passenger ship outfitted with electric lights. The Inman Line was also the first to carry immigrants to the United States on a regular basis in "steerage class." Throughout most of the nineteenth century, passengers traveling in steerage slept wherever there was space in the hold and provided their own food or ate out of communal kettles. Signs aboard Cunard Line ships cautioned that "passengers of the First and Second Class are requested not to throw money or eatables to the steerage passengers, thereby creating disturbance and annoyance." By the end of the nineteenth century, carrying immigrants was profitable for most passenger ships. The International Navigation...

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